‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Creator Reveals the Challenges of Making a Hit TV Show

Published 2 years ago by , Updated February 17th, 2012 at 7:02 am,

everybody loves raymond phil rosenthal Everybody Loves Raymond’ Creator Reveals the Challenges of Making a Hit TV Show

From Pilot To Series: The Creation Of A Multi-Million Dollar Business

They said, “Who is going to run the show?” and I said, “I assumed me – because I made the pilot, yes? And you liked the pilot enough to pick it up to series, yes? So if it’s all good, we’ll just do more of that!”

They said, “No, no… You don’t understand; you’ve never run a show before. Why would we entrust this…”, now it’s a multi-million dollar business, “…why would we entrust this to you?”

And I said, “Well, because I’m writing about my family – and nobody knows my family like I do.” Now that’s not bullshit, that’s true! Now I couldn’t pull this with any other show, because no other show was about my family – but this one was!

So I said, “If you have somebody else run the show… I’m not going to work for somebody else on my show – it doesn’t make sense. And the show will stink, because the person doesn’t know what I know – and I’m not going to do it.”

And they said, “Okay, goodbye!” – and for three days I sat there thinking that I just gave up my show. I created a show for them, they were now giving it to someone else to run, and I was out. So for three days, that’s what I thought.

…and then they called back and said that they’re going to let me run the show.

Writing A Hit Show: It’s Difficult

Writing is very difficult – so it’s a lot like homework. I spent a lot of my teen years trying to avoid homework. In fact, I spent most of my childhood avoiding homework. So, it’s a bit ironic that my job now is basically homework.

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People will say, “Yeah, but you’re a writer.” Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I like it. You know, I’m sure there’s a lot of construction workers who aren’t all that crazy about construction.

So I do it because I’ve been told that I’m okay at it – and I keep doing it because people keep paying me to do it. I don’t know if I would do it otherwise.

I do love [writing] once I’m in to it, and I especially love it after I’m finished with it.

The act of sitting down and trying to think up something that someone else might like? That is terrible; it’s hard. In fact, I’d rather do construction.

Celebrating A Series: Success Is A Miracle

I recognized it as it was happening – and I felt that very thing as it was happening: “I’ll never have this again!”

To have any success at all, to me, was a miracle. I mean, just to get on the air, to me, was a miracle. Then to last [one] season was a miracle. Then to last more than [one] season was a miracle. Then to have it be as successful as it ultimately became and the fact that it’s still on television – it’s like hitting the jackpot over and over and over again.

There’s nothing in life that compares to this – and never will! And I knew it at the time!

[Editor's note: Over the course of 9 years, Everybody Loves Raymond averaged 15.5 million viewers for each of its 210 episodes - and that's including its first season premiering in television's dreaded Friday night death slot. On top of ratings success, Everybody Loves Raymond also went on to be nominated for 129 awards, winning 49 - including 15 Emmy Awards.]

After Its Over: Diversify

You know, mainly because business is so terrible, I, like many, have had to diversify. So, I’m not looking for that exact kind of success again – I don’t think it’s possible.

everybody loves raymond 2 Everybody Loves Raymond’ Creator Reveals the Challenges of Making a Hit TV Show

Nor would I be interested in doing that again, because I did it! I did it for nine years, so I exhausted those resources – meaning that type of family sitcom.

So now, I’m writing a Broadway musical, for example; I’m working on an animated show; I’m working on a different type of sitcom – I’m even working on a food reality show, because I love to eat.

So there are all these things… I have two screenplays out there, based on two stories from my book, that I’ve written and am going to direct – and just raising money for those things, it’s like I was never in the business.

The Status Of Television: Most Things Are Terrible, Not Just On TV

I think there’s always been mostly terrible stuff. Not just in TV, but in movies, in theater, in art. [I mean,] how many people do you really like? Most things are terrible – and there’s always been a few great things at any given time.

I don’t think there’s ever been a “Golden Age,” right? We could be in the “Golden Age” right now – I don’t know. But I do know that the ratio of “great to terrible” has always been huge – mostly on the side of “not so good.”

Has it changed? Yes, it’s changed. The kind of show that we were trying to do a few years ago… I don’t know if ['Everybody Loves Raymond'] would get on the air today – but that’s not to say that there aren’t great shows of a different kind on the air today. Even shows [that are similar to 'Everybody Loves Raymond']; there’s at least one: ‘Modern Family’ – that’s very close.

For anyone that is interested in what it actually takes to create a television series (or if you simply want to laugh at Rosenthal having to buy K&R insurance (kidnap and ransom)), I sincerely encourage you to check out Exporting Raymond, as well Phil Rosenthal’s book You’re Lucky You’re Funny: How Life Becomes a Sitcom, both of which give an even more hilarious and in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the television industry.

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Exporting Raymond airs tonight @8pm on HBO

Follow Anthony on Twitter @anthonyocasio

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  1. I watched “Exporting Raymond” a few weeks ago, it’s pretty fantastic. I recommend it.

  2. I liked this

  3. Enjoyed the interview very much.

  4. I use to watch Raymond and lost interest when it was NOT about him and his wife.

    Adding the full cast in nearly every scene is a most DESTRUCTIVE things any TV show can do. Look at all the TV shows when they ‘expanded’ the cast and see how it lost interest by most people.
    The writers running out of ideas, or the ‘other’ cast demanding more on-time and money?

    If it’s about RAYMOND, lets see things about RAYMOND and not about ALL the cast in every damn scene.

    Look at BBT, currently is a hot TV show. They are about to break the success and monkey with these ‘other’ people on the show and it’s no longer about BBT group. It’s still tolerated because the writing and acting is superb. But do more of these extras coming on all the time and people get bored. Don’t take my work for it, look back in history how a TV show declies and loose public interest.
    I should be paid $10K for this advice, but no one in the ‘business’ seems to understand why things fail.

  5. Sorry, forgot to mention, it was a GREAT interview and made a lot of sense what Phil is saying. It’s a crazy business, indeed.

  6. This was a great article and I will be watching this Ondemand soon.
    For anyone who is interested you should check out the Marc Maron Podcast “WTF”. He just had on Bill Lawrence (Spin City, Scrubs, Cougar Town) and they talked a lot about working on and creating a TV show. He goes into getting fired as a writer on Friends to being a show runner for his own series. It’s really interesting and funny.

  7. Great Interview & article Anthony!!!!

  8. Neighbor that mother competes with that’s new to neighborhood that dad is lusting after that happens to be black, sexy, single mother. She (I) come over often because Deborah and I have become great friends and neighbors due to kids….

  9. He may be thinking of “Heroes”:

    “But that’s the chance you have to take, because the road is littered with many, many shows where the showrunner took everybody’s ideas – regardless if they were good or not. Because they thought that by taking everybody’s idea then that would make the show bulletproof – but in fact, it makes the show riddled with bullets. And then the show died!”

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